Integrating the Arts into the 4th and 5th Grade Classroom

A Primer for Classroom Teachers

This series of activities is the result of a two-day workshop conducted by Dr. Sue Snyder for the Oak Grove Upper Elementary School faculty in June, 2000. Oak Grove is just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and is a participant in the Whole Schools Program supported by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission. There are about 850 4th and 5th graders, and they are just about to move into the prior middle school facility, providing a much needed gym and auditorium. There is no music or art specialist at this school, although they are working very hard to get funding for these positions. They are in their first year of implementing an arts-infused school plan modeled after the HOT Schools program. These teachers are well versed in multiple intelligence theory, authentic assessment, and other various contemporary trends in education. They felt they needed some help with music understandings and skills, and also an overview of the HOT Schools model. They also needed to begin the type of team building that will be required to make the transitions and changes necessary during the coming year.

Outline of Content

  1. Sharing personal experiences--Torn paper quilt squares and oral history
  2. Sharing visions of our school--Group responses to topics
  3. The discipline of music: Building concepts and skills through activities related to pattern
    1. Activity #1: Names
    2. Activity #2: Body percussion sounds
    3. Activity #3: Paper Plates as an example of found or environmental sounds
    4. Activity #4: Unpitched Instruments
    5. Activity #5: Pitch and Singing
    6. Activity #6: Listening Maps
    7. Activity #7: STOMP
    8. Activity #8: Newspaper sticks
  4. HOT School Pillar: Strong Arts Programs
    1. Arts disciplines and staffing
    2. Basic Concepts in Music with HOT examples
      1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
      2. A Design for Composition
    3. Basic Concepts in Art with HOT examples
      1. Exploring Line in Three Dimensions
      2. Exploring Shape through Negative Space
      3. Exploring Value through a Window
    4. Basic Concepts in Movement/Dance with HOT examples
      1. Building Basic Movement Skills
        1. Prepare the space together
        2. Circle and scatter formations
        3. Exploring self space
        4. Non-locomotor movements
        5. Moving through pathways
        6. Locomotor movements
        7. Mirroring
        8. Group movement--circles
      2. Verbs and adverbs
  5. HOT School Pillar: Arts-infused Curriculum
    1. In, about, and through the arts
    2. Connection, correlation, and integration
  6. HOT School Pillar: Democracy
  7. Materials and Activities
    1. Funga Alafia
    2. Jacqueline
  8. Adapting materials, activities, and ideas

Sharing Personal Experiences: Torn paper quilt squares and oral history.


  1. Guide participants to find a memory--perhaps a musical memory from early childhood. Other possible categories might be a happy (sad, funny, scary) experience, an object that is meaningful, a special holiday, something you did on summer vacation.
  2. Guide participants to explore that memory for details by asking questions:
  3. Instruct participants to create a torn-paper image, using only paper and glue, to represent their story.
  4. Interview one person about their story, demonstrating interviewing techniques including:
  5. In pairs, collect each others' stories.
  6. Put the torn paper images into a "quilt" on the bulletin board or a wall.
  7. Optional: Do creative writing to write the stories and add them to the display.

Sharing visions of our school--Group responses to topics

Teachers at a workshop have vast information about their specific situation, and can provide a context into which the entire workshop content will fit. In this case, the teachers used post-its to put up responses to the following flip-chart paper prompts:

As we read the responses, we all came to a common vision of what the big picture of the school was, what the issues and challenges were. Most responses were very positive, and showed great respect between all participants. A strength of this school is the principal, who participated in every activity along with her staff. She is organized and respected. Another strength in this school is the strong parent support and participation in the school. The students are loved and honored. The teacher team reflects a range of teaching experience, style, expertise, and interests. Nearly all are open to change, and interested in what is best for the children.

The Discipline of Music: Building Concepts and Skills through Activities Related to Pattern

Activity #1: Names

Process (Do this series of activities over several days):
  1. Echo say and clap names around the circle, starting with the teacher. (We used first and last names, but you could use just first names.)
  2. Repeat to get comfortable, going around the circle the other way.
  3. Identify different ways to clap, and each modify their name by changing the way they clap and say it. Go around and echo again.
  4. Have students try out combinations of two names to create longer patterns. Do this as a whole group first, then in small groups. They might create patterns using four names. Encourage repetition and contrast.
  5. Groups perform their patterns for one another.
  6. It is possible to create a composition using these patterns if they are interesting and the students are interested.

Activity #2: Body percussion sounds

Process: (Do one activity each day, building skill and complexity over time. Choose those that are most comfortable for you.)

  1. Echo clap patterns
  2. Add snaps, then pats, then stamps.
  3. Echo patterns that include two levels, for example: claps and pats.
  4. Echo patterns that include three or four levels. (Remember that this ability occurs as a result of practice over time. Don't overwhelm the students, but do a little each day and build skills. As you use more levels, increase the number of beats in your patterns from 4 to 8.)
  5. Around the circle, each person create their own 4 beat pattern. Combine one pattern after another to create 8 beat patterns. In small groups, create 16, 24, or 32 beat patterns that can be repeated over and over. Use these as accompaniments for songs or poems, or combine several to create an AB, ABA, or ABACA piece.
  6. Write out the body percussion patterns that individuals create, using lines that label the sounds from top to bottom, and reading from left to right, for example:
    Body Percussion Pattern
    These patterns can be placed on index cards and used as flash cards as a reading warm-up.
  7. Hint: Echoing patterns is good for getting student attention, but don't bore the kids. Be inventive by using different body sounds, incorporating mouth sounds like whistles or shhhs. Let them lead the patterns as soon as they are able. And sometimes clap four patterns one after the other, then ask the students to clap all four back in order without any mistakes.
  8. Hint: Body percussion will transfer to instruments, or patterns can be used to create accompaniments for songs or poems.

Activity #3: Paper Plates as an example of found or environmental sounds.

  1. Each person take two plates.
  2. Try out some ways to make sounds with the two plates, and share these ideas with one another.
  3. With march music, samba music, a rag, or something else lively; play the plates any way you want for 8 beats and then change. Continue changing the way the plates are played every 8 beats.
  4. Note: This is an exploratory activity that leads to fluency and flexibility. No one is creative until they've used up all the ideas they already know. Then they have to think creatively, consult with each other, and collaborate. After a while, sit down and discuss the process of being creative and thinking "outside the box." Describe how to minify, magnify, adapt, vary, collaborate, and swipe ideas from others. Enjoy the silliness of this activity--Creativity comes from a place of childlike thinking.

Activity #4: Unpitched Instruments (Use the Total Literacy Classroom Unpitched Instrument Starter Kit.)

  1. Each person choose an instrument to play.
  2. Categorize the instruments according to sound families: woods, metals, scrapers/shakers, drums.
  3. Echo patterns on unpitched instruments, first from clapping, the assign the following:
    Snap = metals
    Clap = woods
    Pat = scrapers/shakers
    Stamp = drums
  4. Read the written pattern cards that were created for body percussion, transferring to unpitched instruments.
  5. Use unpitched instruments to highlight any concept you are working on, for example:
  6. Use the drum to have students walk the steady beat creating pathways through space without bumping. At first just walk, then add jogging, skipping, and swaying.
  7. Tap the woodblock 5 times to have students create statues with 5 people. Repeat with different number of taps. This is a great experience before doing division or multiplication to create sets and remainders.
  8. Note: The unpitched instruments are chosen to represent the four sound families, but also to represent the short vowel sounds: clatterpillar, eggs, sticks, block, and drums. There is also the finger cymbal for y as a vowel sound.

Activity #5: Pitch and Singing

  1. You are purchasing Share the Music, Grades 4 and 5 for each classroom. There are Teacher's Editions, Pupil Books, and CDs, plus resource materials. If you follow the lessons in the book, you will learn musical concepts and skills along with your students.
  2. When you get your books, review them to find the following sections and features:
  3. We did "Mango Walk" from Grade 5, including the song and dance directions.
  4. "Funga Alafia" is provided with directions in the Materials and Activities section of this article.

Activity #6: Listening Maps

  1. Listening maps provide a visual map of a piece of music. You will be receiving "Music Memory," with 20 listening maps and selections to use during the year. There are lessons and transparencies. Look at Listening Maps to follow one map and see how they work.
  2. We also used a listening map from "Interactive Arts for Total Literacy" in our model thematic unit on Imitation in the HOT Schools section of our workshop.

Activity #7: STOMP

Patterns in music are the basis for the hit musical STOMP.

  1. Watch the video in small bits over several days.
  2. Discuss the patterns that are created through everyday sounds and objects.
  3. Imitate some of the patterns using brooms, pails, cards, bouncing balls, and so on.
  4. Have students create their own patterns using the same or different objects. Be sure to use a rigorous editing process. Perhaps this would be the time to construct a rubric for what an excellent piece and performance would entail, and work toward excellence.
  5. Create your own STOMP performance.

Activity #8: Newspaper sticks.

  1. Provide background on Australia, and aboriginal dot painting.
  2. Create sticks using newspaper, magazines, paper, markers, and tape. Each person should have two sticks.
  3. In pairs, create patterns in sets of 2, then sets of 3.
  4. Try these sets of 3
  5. Create patterns of 16 beats that both partners can do.
  6. Add music ("Tititorea" is in Share the Music Grade 3, but any music in sets of 3 that is not too fast will work.)
  7. This can be done with patterns in sets of 2 or 4, using march music, or pop tunes.
  8. Note: Again, the creative process is equally important to the product. Provide time for problem solving, editing, revision, and sharing. Help students identify the good ideas and build on them.

HOT Schools

The HOT Schools program is implemented through the Connecticut Commission on the Arts in 28 Connecticut schools. The foundation is school community and culture. The three supporting pillars are 1)strong arts programs, 2) arts infused curriculum, and 3) democracy. For more information on HOT Schools click on the title above.

HOT Schools Pillar: Strong Arts Programs

Arts disciplines and staffing

When we speak of the arts in education, we really are discussing four distinct and separate disciplines: music, movement, visual art, and drama. Schools usually have music and visual arts specialists, and often the physical education teacher focuses a portion of the curriculum on creative and structured movement (dance). Drama is usually taught as part of the language arts curriculum. Dance and drama are supported in arts-infused schools through visiting artists until such time as funding is available for a full or part time faculty member in each of these disciplines. In Oak Grove School, there is no music or art specialist at this time, although the community is seeking funding for these positions.

Basic Skills and Understanding in the Arts

The arts standards are published in a document, National Standards in the Arts: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in Music, Visual Art, Dance, and Drama. In addition, each state and most local districts have arts standards, guidelines, or curriculum guides. The following are the most basic concepts in music, visual art, and movement.

Basic Concepts in Music

You can use any of these to "spice up" classroom content. For example: When a rule must be remembered, choose a musical concept such as high/low, and have the students say the phrase high, low, in the middle, higher, lower, half high and the other half low, half low and the other half high, mixing up the highs and lows, all at one level. By the time they have done all these repetitions, they will have orally rehearsed the phrase so many times it will most likely be remembered. This works even better when you add movement for kinesthetic reinforcement.

For an activity that allows students to explore the basic contrasts in music through composition, see 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, or A Design for Composition.

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  • Circle some of the numbers above.
  • Say 1-8, clap circled numbers only.
  • Say 1-8, clap uncircled numbers only.
  • Divide into 2 groups.
    Count 1-8, half clap circled numbers, the other half clap uncircled numbers.
  • Transfer to two different instrument sounds.
  • Practice, then play it for us.
  • Optional: Play your pattern with a song.

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A Design for Composition

Plan a piece together. Read all the directions before you start working. Once you begin, be sure to listen, share ideas, ask questions, and encourage each other. You're in this together.

You may not talk to the teacher unless everyone in the group has a hand raised at the same time. Someone in the group probably has the answer you need. Be sure to check before you ask outside the group.


  1. Using your chosen or assigned musical contrast, decide how the beginning of the piece will introduce your opposites. What sound sources might you use?
  2. Plan the middle of the piece. Something needs to happen to the opposites. Will they work together? Will they argue? Will they take turns? Will one gradually turn into the other?
  3. Plan the ending of the piece. There usually is a solution. Make it clever or interesting, but still connected to the piece.


  1. Now is the time to practice. Collect the sounds you need, then only use them to practice this piece. Time is limited, so work quickly. If you are finished before the time limit, think about how you will perform the piece. Standing? Sitting? In a row or circle? Will there be any movement?


  1. Perform the piece for the class. We will try to figure out your musical concept by listening.


  1. How well did your group do? Discuss:

Basic concepts in Visual Art

Click on the following three activities to find lessons that allow students to explore line, shape, and value. They are in a format that can be copied for use in the classroom.

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Exploring Line in Three Dimensions


  • Create a three-dimensional wire or wikki stix representation of the head of someone in the room.
  • Consider the dimensions of height, width, and depth as you work.

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Exploring Shape through Negative Space


  • Place two or three chairs on a table in different positions, at different angles.
  • Choose one of the chairs.
  • Recreate it using torn newspaper to show the negative spaces.

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Exploring Value Through a Window


  • Find a shiny object that is large and has interesting shapes. Place it on display.
  • Use a blank stiff sheet of paper with a 1" square hole cut in the center. At arm's length, search the displayed object until you find a visually interesting part.
  • Using different number pencils (soft to hard, dark to light), create a drawing of your chosen part which fills the whole page.

Basic Concepts in Movement/Dance

Building Basic Movement Skills

Many physical education teachers and classroom teachers are uncomfortable with guiding creative movement activities rather than competitive sports. However, the research is clear that movement is essential for learning, and creative movement is a strong pathway to creative and critical thinking. Therefore, begin by building basic movement skills, such as the following:

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Verbs and Adverbs

  1. Make a list of action words suggested by students. Be sure to include locomotor, non-locomotor, and gesture words.
  2. In another color, create a list of -ly words (select those that are adverbs, such as "happily," "lazily," and "energetically," rather than "friendly."
  3. Have students try out several combinations of one verb and one adverb, until they find three that they like.
  4. Each share the three movements with a partner, having the partner guess what combination they are doing.
  5. Have the pair create a movement phrase or sentence using some of the six movements they have shared.
  6. Join with another pair, share their movements, and combine those that are most interesting into a movement phrase or sentence.
  7. Optional: Join with another foursome to create a movement piece using the best ideas from both groups.
  8. Share the products at whatever stage seems appropriate.

Note: Verbs and Adverbs is a great activity for building collaborative skills, and working on the editing process. Only some ideas are good ones, and even good ideas don't always fit. Help students learn the skills of listening, making suggestions, trying out ideas, using critical language about ideas, and analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating. Remember that the process is equally important to the product.

There are lots of movement activities in Share the Music, including a movement glossary at the back of the book that describes terminology. If you use these books and CDs, you will have the music to go with the activities you choose!

Also, look for the Phyllis Weikart Rhythmically Moving series of books and CDs when you are planning to do structured movement. She has a sequentially organized program, and uses authentic folk dances and melodies from many cultures.

HOT Schools Pillar: Arts Infused Curriculum

In, about, and through the arts

In each of the arts, we can teach in, about, and through the art discipline.

Teaching in the art is usually the responsibility of the discipline based ("special") teacher, however in situations where there are no specialists, this responsibility lies with the classroom teacher. Every child has the right to learn the languages of the arts, regardless of staffing issues.

Teaching about the art discipline is a shared responsibility of the arts specialist and classroom teacher.

Teaching through the arts is the responsibility of the classroom teacher. Many classroom teachers find that they need to attend music, art, and movement sessions with their classes for the first year of teaching in order to gain the skills and understandings they will need.

In-service is also an important component of classroom teacher training.

Likewise, arts specialists should make time to learn the curricula of their students in language arts, math, science, and social studies. This can often be done through creating a schedule that allows for team teaching.

The classroom teacher needs to build understanding and skills in four arts disciplines.

The arts specialists need to build understandings and skills in four classroom disciplines, multiplied by the number of grade levels taught for example: K-5 is six different levels.

Connection, Correlation, and Integration

There are three different levels of linking disciplines often utilized in arts-infused programs.

In a connection, one discipline (usually the arts discipline) is in the service of another, for example: Science Through Song is a set of 15 songs developed to teach concepts in the elementary science curriculum. They have different musical styles, and the recording uses age appropriate models, but there is no stated musical purpose or goal. Connections are very popular with classroom teachers, and create motivation and interest in lessons. Students usually enjoy this type of activity, and find it enriches their learning. Facts can be learned this way, and adding rhythm or song to factual material makes the learning easier. However, connections alone are not enough to constitute integrated or arts-infused programs.

Correlation is the next step toward integration. In a Correlation, materials and/or activities are shared between disciplines, but there are objectives and goals in both disciplines. For example: Imagine that teacher uses the instrumental tracks available in "Science Through Song," to have students create their own words to remember specific math, science, language, social studies, or other facts. In the process of doing this activity, not only are the facts being orally rehearsed by the children as they try to fit them into the melody and rhythm of the song, but clapping the rhythm would be necessary (a music objective), singing the melody without words would be necessary (a music objective), rhyming words would need to be pointed out and created (a language arts activity), and perhaps movement might be added (a movement activity). These are only viable activities in a discipline if they are made explicit to the students through labeling and assessment of their understanding. Correlations are much more powerful learning designs that connections, but still not true integrations.

Integration occurs when a topical or conceptual theme is chosen by a group of teachers, and each teaches toward that theme through their own disciplines. For example: if the theme is sequence, the language arts teacher is using literature which allows exploration of sequence, the music teacher is developing an understanding of sequence using a piece such as Echoes, from Interactive Arts for Total Literacy; the art teacher is finding the sequence of tints, shades, and shapes in From the Lake by Georgia O'Keefe; and the movement teacher is helping students create sequences of movements using verbs and adverbs. Together, these experiences help students understand the larger concept of sequence.

For additional information on arts-infused curriculum designs, see either the Integrate with Integrity article or book. Models are available in Interactive Arts for Total Literacy. New models will soon be available for intermediate elementary levels.

HOT Pillars: Democracy

Democracy is an interesting issue in education. We want our students to grow as contributing members of society, capable of identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, evaluating suggestions to determine which might be the best, and collaboratively act on decisions for the community's benefit. Is this the way the school is run, and are these behaviors and skills that are taught in your school?

In a HOT School every effort is made to create a school culture where the voice of the child is heard. Here are some questions to help clarify your thinking about whether this occurs in your school, and how it can be facilitated:

Here are some ways that democracy is growing in HOT Schools:

Materials and Activities

Funga Alafia, the Liberian greeting dance, can be found in Share the Music, Grade 5.

Process: A Section

  1. Echo-speak the words to the song with patting.
  2. Echo-sing the words to the song with patting.
  3. Listen to the whole A section, then sing it until it is secure.
  4. In a circle, add hands going out to sides, then clapping own hands.
  5. Add moving feet, once to the left (clockwise), and once to the right (counterclockwise).

Process: B Section

  1. Echo each phrase with the motions, or follow the pictures in the book.
  2. Practice until it is flowing.
  3. Perform ABA.

Process: C Section

  1. Practice making quarter turns in a clockwise directions.
  2. Now jump and call out rather than just turning.
  3. Add drummers improvising at least a steady beat, but hopefully something fancy and fine.
  4. Perform ABACA, with the drummers starting at C and continuing through the last A section.

Jacqueline, the number game is in Zing, Zing, Zing, by Avon Gillespie. It can be ordered from West Music. Just to help you remember, it is done in circle formation. There are 3 parts:

Adapting Materials, Activities, and Ideas

This workshop, and this article, includes a lot of wonderful activities and materials suggested, as well as ideas both large and small. However, only the individual teacher and school community can make decisions about how to use these ideas. You are the only ones who know your own students, their abilities, and their needs. Use these ideas as a "guide on the side," rather than a "sage on the stage." Then you will be modeling the higher order thinking and risk taking you expect from your students.

You might start with the things that feel most comfortable, and for which you can see the most immediate application to your own situation. At the same time, you might explore some of the research behind arts infused curriculum, and discover the process links that suggest that the arts are a lab for all learning. Try Teaching with the Brain in Mind, by Eric Jensen to start. As you begin to use more music, visual art, dance, and drama, you will find yourself aware of the languages of sound, image, and movement all around you. They pop up in literature, and across the disciplines. They become windows to learning that are now open wide! I can predict that both you and your students will have a wonderful time becoming HOT through infusing the arts into and across your curriculum!

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